“Not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” – Anton Ego, Ratatouille
Los Angeles. New York City. Seattle. London. And yes, Liverpool.
The average rock music consumer, if polled, could easily name his or her top 10 favorite bands. Interestingly, the chance of most or all of those bands having come from one of the aforementioned cities is astronomically high. Not to over-generalize, but renowned art tends to emerge from a short list of metropolitan utopias.
The most recent exception to this rule, of course, is the entertainment explosion currently igniting in Georgia, thanks to AMC’s The Walking Dead, rapper/actor Donald Glover’s upcoming FX series Atlanta, and a steady influx of “big studio” films employing Georgia-based casting agencies for big name productions (too many to name). You, along with a growing number of others, might be asking yourself, “Well, when’s Birmingham’s turn?”
“Birmingham is on the cusp of becoming the cultural epicenter of Alabama,” says Andy Jackson, whose band Sloss Minor will open for Taking Back Sunday at Iron City on Sunday, October 27. “There is so much diversity and great live bands coming through here. It can be tough to navigate, but…there are a few people trying really hard to bring us together and make things happen around here. As local musicians, we can see that there is a scene here, but there are no concentrated genres of music.”
Jackson has been inadvertently bringing Birmingham into the underground discussion for years, starting with his successful rock outfit Hot Rod Circuit. In 2002, their single “The Pharmacist,” from their Vagrant Records release Sorry About Tomorrow, became a modest MTV hit. During their 10-year career, Hot Rod Circuit traveled the world over, touring with Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything, Good Charlotte, MXPX, the Get Up Kids and many others.
“We are aware of the fact that we are a [kind of] ‘mid-level super group,’” says keyboardist/vocalist Rachael Jackson, referring to her husband Andy’s time in Hot Rod Circuit, as well as Sloss Minor drummer Gabe Renfroe’s time with the Huntsville-born Northstar, whom Taking Back Sunday frontman Adam Lazzara (born in Sheffield, AL) often describes as “the greatest band ever.”
“We are fortunate to have kept a fan base from our old bands that is slowly transferring over. [But] we are a fresh, new band with a different sound,” adds Rachael. “Although we welcome old fans of our music, we are not relying on it. We are starting over.”
This sentiment of “starting over” is refreshingly apparent in “Duffle Bag,” a song the band recently released via their YouTube channel. Andy’s pleasant rasp is still intact, but softened and more fully realized thanks to the underlying haunts of Rachael’s backup vocals. A hi-hat driven beat and well-placed synth work push Andy’s songwriting into a modern arena, creating a satisfying balance of old and new.
“The one thing I have noticed as I have gotten older,” says Andy, “is that I’m really trying to challenge myself as a singer and guitar player [to] do things that I normally wouldn’t do. In the past, I’ve just kind of jammed, and that was the song. [But] now, I really take the time to tear a song apart and find out what makes it work.”
Sloss Minor – rounded out by bassist Jake Sloan and guitarist/local filmmaker Justin Steeley – will be leaving their lair (Andy Jackson’s home studio, AKA the Jackalope Studio) to share the stage with Transit, Polar Bear Club and the aforementioned Taking Back Sunday at Iron City.
“Iron City is a great new venue,” says Rachael. “It has some of the best live sound around, for sure. [But] honestly, it is a treat to play anywhere in Birmingham. It is definitely more about the people than the place.”
“We definitely strive to put on a great live show, and sound better than our record,” adds Andy. “[However], we seem to always stand out a little. But maybe standing out isn’t such a bad thing.”